Scheme to Recognise Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security Research (ACE-CSR)

UK Government and its delivery partners are continuing their joint work to enhance the UK's academic capability in all fields of cyber security. As part of that work, EPSRC and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) are leading on a scheme to recognise UK Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security Research (ACEs-CSR).

This is the fifth call for UK Higher Education Institutions to submit applications to be considered for ACE-CSR recognition.

Recognition as an ACE-CSR is at the HEI/university level. We are looking for institutions whose cyber security research is of internationally notable scale, quality and impact.


Cyber security

The UK Government aims to ensure that the UK, its people and its businesses are secure, confident, agile and prosperous in cyberspace, and equipped with the knowledge and capabilities needed to maximise the opportunities and balance the risks of the digital era. Cyber attacks continue to create a Tier 1 risk as judged in the National Security Risk Assessment of 2015 (PDF) while the cyber-related aspects of many other risks highlighted in that document continue to be of great concern.

Research and innovation carried out by the UK's thriving academic and business sectors underpins our world-leading cyber security capability. The ACE-CSR scheme continues to be a key part of Government's approach to maintaining and enhancing the UK's reputation as a global leader in cyber security research.

Aim and benefits of the scheme

The overall aim of the scheme is to identify and give due recognition to all UK Higher Education Institutions carrying out cyber security research of sufficiently notable quality, scale and impact across a reasonable range of cyber security knowledge domains (as described in Appendix A.) This will enable a better understanding of the UK's academic cyber capability, identify areas where there are research opportunities or technical gaps and so create a sound basis for future development of investment priorities.

Recognition is at the HEI/university level. It is based on the combined capabilities of the whole organisation, as described in the initial application, rather than being applied to a particular faculty, school, department or research group. Once recognised, we expect HEIs/universities which are ACE-CSR to take an integrated and inclusive overview of their cyber security research and training capabilities and to continue to develop them in that light.

An institution whose submission is successful in this Call will be able to hold the title of 'Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research' for a period of four years, subject to complying with appropriate terms and conditions of membership of the scheme. They will also be supported by an EPSRC research grant (see below.)

The scheme makes collaboration and knowledge sharing between the best of the UK academic sector, business and government easier. It encourages exploitation of current leading-edge research and the identification of the future work needed to ensure the UK is well prepared to meet coming cyber security challenges and threats.

ACE-CSR recognition raises the profile of a recognised institution's cyber security research efforts among students, peers, government and business. It is a visible indicator of quality, and of an institution's long-term commitment to the area. The scheme criteria provide a useful benchmark for the general academic community, encouraging cyber security activity to grow, and improving the quality and breadth of cyber security research across the UK.

ACE-CSR work closely with government stakeholders. To help facilitate effective interactions, all ACE-CSR will have a Liaison Officer from the NCSC or another government stakeholder organisation assigned to them. There will be an annual conference to which representatives from ACE-CSR, government and business will be invited. Recognition as an ACE-CSR allows access to studentship funding through the NCSC's Sponsored Doctoral Studentships Programme.

Research needs within the scheme

The cyber threat is the source of many broad challenges for academic research. The layered, composite nature of today's cyber systems means that cyber research challenges tend to be rapidly evolving and that they add to or modify, rather than replace, existing issues. They require new approaches, insights and techniques (for example those leveraging the power of data science) which can build on and work alongside continuing activity in more established areas such as cryptography, malware analysis and intrusion detection.

Areas that may not traditionally have been considered to be enablers of better cyber security, such as behavioural science and economics, continue to assume an increasingly important role in the field. We expect that recognised ACE-CSR will reflect this trend.